OCTOBER 1, 2014 By Gabriel Benjamin
It is not an understatement that one of the greatest challenges confronting Sierra Leone, and which the administration of President Ernest Bai Koroma has been grappling with without any significant achievement, is the unabated spread of the Ebola Viral Disease and its monstrous nature. The danger posed to the corporate existence of Sierra Leone by the Ebola Virus can no longer be trivialized. Eliminating the virus has become a gargantuan task very difficult to accomplish. The president and his foot soldiers are obviously exasperated and almost at their wits end with no apparent solution in sight despite the wanton deaths that have been recorded in the country since the outbreak of the virus and the huge sums of donations that have turned-in from development partners, donor agencies, foreign missions, religious bodies, corporate organizations and statesmen.
The recent change in the hierarchy at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation by President Koroma has yielded little or no positive result as scores of Sierra Leoneans are being killed daily by the Ebola Virus. One may be tempted to say that the sacking of the former Minister of Health, Ms. Miatta Kargbo, was ill-advised as you cannot get rid of the pilot in the middle of the flight just to pave the way for a new, lower-in-rank co-pilot who you are yet unsure can be any different from his predecessor. This leaves a big question mark on government’s sincerity towards combating the menace of the Ebola Virus.
President Koroma, in a bid to check the continual spread of the Ebola Virus, set up a Committee known as the ‘Presidential Task Force on Ebola’ with a mandate to check the challenges posed by the disease, proffer useful advice to government and chart a new course towards curtailing its continual spread in the country. The Committee is also mandated by the president to work out modalities for catering for households that lose their loved ones to the Ebola Virus and health workers alike. However, since the setting up of the Committee, the Ebola Virus seems to have increased monumentally, leaving many stakeholders, development partners, the international community and Sierra Leoneans querying the propriety of the Committee.
While some Sierra Leoneans believe that the continual spread of the Ebola Virus is a by-product of government’s lackadaisical and insincere attitude, its hypocritical nature about the root cause, and the hitherto political imbroglio within the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, the main cause of the continual spread of the virus in Sierra Leone still remains a closed book to the vast majority. The Ebola Virus is more than just a virus, it is like a plague, and there is no man that can arrest a plague.
It is glaring that mechanisms employed by the government against the Ebola Virus have not achieved much since the start of the outbreak in May. This is aptly because hospitals in the country are underequipped. Health workers are poorly motivated. There is a brain drain in the health sector. The sophisticated nature of the Ebola Virus has left health personnel in the country in uttermost bewilderment. This is why medical personnel are often overpowered and subsequently bow to the superior power of the Ebola Virus.
The virus has continued to ravage the country, bringing governance, political, economic and social activities to a halt. This is because the coordination and management of the disease was not well planned from the onset by government. The socio-economic consequence is yet to be quantified but it’s better imagined. Government can no longer guarantee the safety of lives in certain districts of the country. Threats of contracting the virus are echoing all over the place. People are fleeing in opposing directions to avoid contracting the virus. No one knows when or how the madness of the Ebola Virus will end. It is sure a failure of the health system in the nation.
While I do not out rightly condemn the strategy by the government, the way out for government is to put the capacity of the various health institutions to more tasks and make lesson of those who have surreptitiously circumvented and sabotaged government efforts in curtailing the continual spread of the virus.
I still hold the view that one best way of taming the Ebola Virus in the country is for government to find a way of educating the masses, creating a massive awareness not just in the electronic media, but also in the print media – this will give Sierra Leoneans new orientations and open their eyes to the modern realities of the disease. Adequate funds should be made available to health workers who are in the frontline in the fight against the disease through the Health and Sanitation Ministry. Government should build a robust health system and make it be at par with its counterparts in the developed nations. I would implore President Koroma to embark on these quickly alongside training and retraining of health workers across the country.
Furthermore, all stakeholders in the country must sit down to discuss and proffer solutions, whilst they lay aside their personal, political positions, differences and interests. They have to come together and address the menace of the Ebola Virus. Failure to do this might make the situation spiral out of control. The incredibly devastating impact will probably bring the country to a halt. We do hope primordial sentiments will not prevail over exigency.